Five tribes in Oklahoma, the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole, became known as the Five Civilized Tribes. This was because they acclimated to American culture and adopted European dress and Christianity. Some even owned slaves. After being relocated to Oklahoma they were established as independent nations, but lost much of their autonomy over the years. The Dawes Act of 1887, which divided the reservations into individual allotments, decimated the communal holdings of the tribes. This had happened elsewhere, and though the Act was later repealed much of the damage could not be undone.
After leaving Oklahoma City, I went looking for the Seminole Reservation. Google Maps, and the voice of it, Karen, had done a lot of good so far. In this case, however, following her directions took me on a wild goose chase. Exiting the 40 on the 377, I passed through the town of Bowlegs, and then kept driving, down a solitary, country road, across a nearly demolished bridge. I was notified that I had arrived at my destination when I reached a lonely farmhouse.
The Seminoles came from Florida. Some of them married runaway slaves and became the Black Seminoles. The government launched two wars against them. After the second one in the 1830, four thousand were moved to Indian Territory. Although I was on the reservation, the only sign I saw of it was on a water tower and at a high school, where the football team was called the Chieftains.
Two hours away there was the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee. Driving there, the song Okie from Muskogee, by Merle Haggard came to mind. That was a small revelation. I took the 69 north, past the Creek Nation Casino and Thunderbird Speedway. I got to the museum an hour before it closed. It was standing on a hill. There were exhibits dedicated to each of the tribes. I read about Te Ata, or Bearer of the Morning, a storyteller from the Chickasaw tribe who performed at the White House and in Europe. A movie was later made about her life.
By now it was getting late and I was wasted with exhaustion. My plan was to make it as far as Tulsa. I was interested in visiting anything related to the musician JJ Cale, but by the time I got there couldn’t even concentrate. In fact, I almost needed help. It was too late in the day to search for a campsite. I Googled Motel 6, a go-to from back in the day, and was directed to one about a mile away from the gas station I was parked at, too bewildered to continue. Karen led me there, but when I arrived, found it wasn’t even a Motel 6 anymore, but a step down. It looked like a dormitory for meth-heads.
My initial reaction was just to drive off, especially with the crowd surveying me from the second -floor balcony. Since I was already there, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see what they had. It was forty dollars a night. The receptionist eyed me twice and said I didn’t need to put down a deposit. I was good to go.
My room was on the ground floor, right beside the cracked, empty pool. I made sure I could see the Mountain Bluebird from the window. When parking it, there’d been a lot of activity from the next car over, as if someone were living in it. Two guys on an opposite railing were leaning over with cigarettes, smiling with only a few teeth left in their heads.
I’d lived in cheap hotels like this one for years. They were my joints. Now I wasn’t even sure if the bed was fit to sleep on. The lampshade was all busted up, but someone had patched it up with playing cards, two Aces and a Jack. Right beside it, someone had suggested what all cops can do to themselves. It’s not an adventure if you get too comfortable. I had a long, classy night ahead of me.